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Pro Pundit Teams

How Black Box Thinking helps me with FPL strategy

“Success is not just dependent on before-the-event reasoning, it is also about after-the-trigger adaptation.”

Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking

A few years ago, I read a book by Matthew Syed called Black Box Thinking. In his own words, Syed described the book as being about “the willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit.”.

Because I am, like many of you reading this, obsessed with Fantasy Football, last year I wondered whether I do enough self-reflection about my decisions and strategies.

I’m delighted to say that, as part of the Pro Pundits initiative, Fantasy Football Scout have given me license to have my own fortnightly article, where I will recap on my successes and failures.

It is my hope that as well as myself – you, the reader, will also learn from my experiences.

After my best ever finish in the 2016/17 season (817th place), the 2017/18 campaign was tainted by a frankly dreadful first 30 weeks or so. I was ranked around the 400k mark with only a handful of weeks to go, and things were looking grim. But, I managed to pull it around and finished with a respectable finish of around 60k.

I have been stung by Pedro in the past

Some of you may have listened to my Black Box Thinking podcasts last season. I didn’t make as many as I would have liked to – real life got in the way – but I do feel as though my note-taking and pondering over decisions led me to make some better ones towards the end of the season, which ultimately led to a decent finish.

“Hindsight” is a word that I see a lot on the message boards here and on Twitter. It seems to have negative connotations to it. “I wish I had captained x and not y”. To this end, I agree. If you’ve done your research – and you make a sensible choice based on the tried and tested FPL totems of form, fixtures, stats and eye test – then you can’t really beat yourself up if the Gods decide it’s not your time.

But there are certain traps that I fall into time and time again when playing this game, despite it being my 13th season of playing.

Buying players who are rotation risks is one of my signature moves. I’ve been burned by the likes of Pedro (£6.9m), Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m), as I tried to be clever and “cover” certain teams.

Making outlandish captaincy decisions has also been my downfall. During 2017/18 I captained Jesse Lingard (yes, really) when Harry Kane (£10.9m) got a brace. I also stuck the armband on Richarlison (£7.9m) and watched with hands over my eyes as Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) was thwarted by the opposition goalkeeper time and time again (I got off lightly that time). During 2016/17 I remember captaining a fresh-off-the-physio-table Sergio Aguero (£12.2m) as he blanked against Arsenal, while the man I sold, Diego Costa, racked up a cricket score against Swansea.

Pascal Groß did big things for me several years ago

These moves are tinged with regret because I know deep down that they were poor decisions. However, when I think about some of my best moments in FPL, they are when I’ve rolled the dice and owned a player who has delivered on the promise that I – and not many others – saw. Pascal Groß (£6.4m) will always be the diamond that I feel I unearthed during my best-ever season. I also have fond memories of when I built a defence entirely around wing-backs. Decisions like this remind me of why I play this game; there’s nothing worse than following the crowd and failing anyway.

So, is it possible to learn from mistakes, to go against your gut because you have learned that that tactic rarely works, but also have fun and back yourself? I think it is. I want to learn to balance my heart, my head, and the devil on my shoulder telling me to do something reckless. I want to start making moves that make sense, that aren’t founded on hopes and dreams. I want to get ahead of the pack playing my own game, but using my experience, successes, and failures to help me make better decisions.

How I am lining up for Gameweek 9 of Fantasy Premier League

And yet, here I am, eight Gameweeks into the new season and I worry that the same mistakes are still in my system. A few weeks ago, I benched Teemu Pukki (£7.1m) while he ran riot against an injury-ravaged Man City defence, so I could play a Sheffield United defender. I’m in danger of trying to be too clever yet again. At the time of writing, I’ve got Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) in my squad. I also have no Liverpool attackers.

I’ve instead decided to go for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) and Callum Wilson (£7.9m), who up until last week hadn’t recorded a single blank all season. But  I’m not sure I really trust Arsenal, or Bournemouth with their new system. I’m concerned that Pep Guardiola’s rotation will catch me out, despite Mahrez looking a strong option with Bernardo Silva (£7.9m) facing a ban. I’m also fearing my selling of Salah when Liverpool are boasting a 100%-win rate and he is still posting some decent stats.

Will I be sat here, writing the next article ruing my decisions? I guess only time will tell, but the Black Box is on and recording – and I intend to learn from it.

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Az Follow me on Twitter : @ffscout_az” Follow him on Twitter

287 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dribbles
    • 1 Year
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Mane to Milner as a punt? Talk to me

    1. gooner_112233445566
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Surely this is a joke?

    2. Miguel Sanchez
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Is Mike Dean ref?

    3. Bat Man
      • 2 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Stop drinking

    4. Jarvish Scott Talent
      • 5 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      No thanks

    5. FOO FIGHTER
      3 months, 2 days ago

      I need what you are smoking 😀

    6. Trophé Mourinho
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Milner penalty incoming

    7. Ask Yourself
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      No that’s obviously a stupid idea

    8. Amey
      • 1 Year
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Nice effort 🙂

  2. gooner_112233445566
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Last decision on wildcard

    A) soy, Maddison, Wilson
    B) pereira, odoi, vardy
    C) pereira, Maddison, king

    Got Abraham and mount already....

    1. Bat Man
      • 2 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      A for me

    2. FOO FIGHTER
      3 months, 2 days ago

      B

      1. gooner_112233445566
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        3 months, 2 days ago

        Or d) perreira, odoi, wilson

      2. gooner_112233445566
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        3 months, 2 days ago

        I can’t afford b, I meant to have Wilson instead of vardy

        1. FOO FIGHTER
          3 months, 2 days ago

          Then I would still go B.

          1. gooner_112233445566
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            3 months, 2 days ago

            Thanks. Such a tough decision

          2. FOO FIGHTER
            3 months, 2 days ago

            Pereira, CHO and Wilson

            1. gooner_112233445566
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              3 months, 2 days ago

              Thank you mate

  3. Bat Man
    • 2 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    2 FT

    Pope Adrian
    Alderweireld Soy Lund Pieters Kelly
    Salah Sterling Dilva Mount Cant
    Kun Haller Greenwood

    Kun + Greenwood to Tammy + Wilson?

    Would allow me to upgrade Dilva to KDB next week as well

    1. FOO FIGHTER
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Adrian to 4.0 and extra cash.

  4. heptonstall
    • 10 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    A Jimenez/Mina/Vertonghen

    B Joelinton/VVD/Maguire

    Who wins?

    1. Bat Man
      • 2 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      A but I’d find someone else over Mina

    2. gooner_112233445566
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Terrible choices. Would only want Jimenez and vvd out of them

      1. heptonstall
        • 10 Years
        3 months, 2 days ago

        It's a 10 team draft league question

  5. Greyling
    • 3 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Hi. What changes are needed for gw9?

    Pope,
    TAA, Digne, Pieters,
    Salah, Mount, McGinn, Son, Sterling
    Abraham, Pukki

    Bench: Lundstram, Kelly, Greenwood

    A) Digne to Pereira/Soyuncu
    B) Digne to Boly/Doherty
    C) Digne, Pukki to Soyuncu, Wilson (-4)
    D) Save FT

    1. Greyling
      • 3 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      E) Digne, Pukki to Soyuncu, Jimenez (-4)

      1. Vasily
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 8 Years
        3 months, 2 days ago

        This

    2. FOO FIGHTER
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Digne to Pereira.

  6. Oggle22
    • 3 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    2FT
    Pope
    Otemendi TAA Lundstarm
    Salah Sterling Guendouzi Mount
    Pukki Kun Abraham

    Button Cantwell Kelly Pieters
    Pukki to King roll other ft

    Cheers

  7. RAFA THE GAFFA
    • 3 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    WC Team, but unsure on a captain this week?

    Alternatively I get Kane(C) instead of Kun as a one week punt.

    Pope
    TAA • Söyüncü • Tomori
    KDB • Mount • Mané • Maddison
    Agüero • Abraham • C.Wilson
    (McGovern. Rico. Lunds. Dendo)

    1. Zombiesmurffi
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      I think Abraham. I have the same team.

  8. New Article Posted
  9. HarryB29
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Is this worth the hit?

    Salah, Barnes, Otamendi --> Mane, Wilson, Soyuncu (-4)

  10. AK_FC
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Current WC team:
    Ryan
    TAA - Tomori - Soy
    KDB - Mane - Mount - Maddison
    Auba - Abra - Vardy
    (Button; Rico, Lund, Dendocke)

    1.1 ITB, still trying to decide on:
    Auba or Kun?
    Vardy or C.Wilson?
    Any other suggestions?

  11. Krupinho
    3 months, 2 days ago

    2 FTs and o.1 ITB

    Pukki to Jimenez? worth a shout or any other suggestions welcome

    Current Team

    Pope
    TTA Soy Otta Rico
    Salah Sterling Mount
    Pukki Auba Abraham (C)

    Button Guendozi Lund Cantwell

  12. Andre_The_Giant
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Currently considering Salah & Pukki to Maddison & Auba (1.1m ITB) or Maddison & Aguero. Already own Sterling and KDB.

    Also still have my WC so can bring Salah back in at a later date when required.

    Feel like those moves might blow up in my face though. Thoughts?

    1. WOLVERiNES
      • 8 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      Sterling + KDB should be enough.

      Maddi/Auba seems like a decent transfer but I wont do it for a hit.

  13. WOLVERiNES
    • 8 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    After two weeks of tinkering, Ive finally decided on my WC team. Overthinking in this case has been very good for me. My initial few drafts had some really bad/speculative) picks ( Mahrez, Reid, ElNeny, Gazza, Lascelles)

    Only risks in my final team are Tierney & Maddison. As an Arsenal fan I have decent amount of confidence in Tierney and kind of on the positive side he starts this Monday.

    Schmeical,
    TAA, Tierney, Rico,
    Mane, Mount, Maddison, KDB
    Abraham, C.Wilson, Aubameyang

    Button Saka, Lundstram, Kelly

    Good to go ?

  14. Pu-li-sick (sic)
    • 2 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Tl;Dr: What Az means by black box thinking is whenever he makes a transfer he's gotta sing

    'you just walk right in, walk walk walk right in!'

    1. Az
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • Has Moderation Rights
      • 10 Years
      3 months, 2 days ago

      YESSSS

  15. Trophé Mourinho
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Poch on Vorm:
    The position is different, Hes going to need some time. It was a special situation that happened to sign him. We trust him. He was training. He needs to be on the pitch, in the goal. But im sure he will be ready as soon as possible, quickly.

  16. kidzac
    • 8 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Current team

    Henderson
    Vvd matip Tierney
    Mane sterling kdb Wilson mcginn
    Tammy pukki

    Pope ayew targett lundstrum

    FT used to bring in targett for zinchenko before the price fell. Bench in order? Kind of expecting massive points from my bench this week whoever I bench. Hahaha!

  17. rnrd
    • 5 Years
    3 months, 2 days ago

    Could CHO raise tonight?